Believe it or not, some of the best automotive technologies had nothing to do with cars when they were invented. One of the most recent came from Intel, which designed the RealSense camera technology for personal computers. It can sense 3D objects, allowing users to interact with their PCs in an entirely new way.
As cool as it was, the tech didn’t resonate with consumers who were shopping for new PCs. They stuck with the mouse and keyboard/touchpad, a tried and true control method that has been around for several years.
Intel searched for a new market and found that drone makers could use RealSense to improve crash avoidance. This got the attention of automakers, which are now looking to RealSense to improve active safety.
Derek Kerton, founder and chairman of the Autotech Council in Silicon Valley, used this example to illustrate why automobiles will evolve faster than anticipated.
“Things are going to happen quicker than people believe because a multitude of exponential laws are in place here,” said said Kerton. “There is also R&D in inventions that we don’t think are relevant to automotive that are going to be [in the future].”
Knowing where to look
If you want the inside scoop regarding which technologies will prove to be vital to autonomous cars, think about the problems inherent to their deployment.
“Identity is an important one,” said Mark Thomas, VP of marketing at RideCell, a developer of car- and ride-sharing platforms. “When there’s no driver [inside your Uber], the car can display your name so I know that’s my car. But how does it know that somebody isn’t just hijacking it and getting a free ride? Being able to know who the person is – in an authenticated manner – so that only you can unlock the autonomous car that comes up, that’s definitely one of the critical pieces.”
This could make consumers uncomfortable if they feel that autonomous Ubers are invading their privacy, but that may not be avoidable.
“It’s one of those opt-in things,” he said. “When people have a direct benefit to opting in to having their identity known, that’s an important piece of the equation. If you want to use the service, you benefit from the fact that it authenticates you, so nobody else can get in and take your car. There’s nothing worse than watching your Uber drive off with somebody else in it.”
Securing your next ride
Authentication could be taken to a whole new level with autonomous automobiles. Whether owned, rented or shared, these cars will need a way to securely identify each passenger, while passengers will need a way to get inside.
Gail Gottehrer, an attorney and partner at Akerman LLP, believes that biometrics will play a key role in self-driving cars.
“It’s something that’s uniquely you,” said Gottehrer. “It’s harder to hack than a four- or eight-digit code or password. People like it because it’s something you don’t have to think about, you can’t forget, as well all do with our passwords.”
Gottehrer added that as autonomy approaches, consumers are going to want more security.
“I think the more we can show people we have these extra levels of security, and especially with Uber having concerns about some of their drivers and security protocols, we can reassure people that the car [is secure],” she said.
About the author:
Louis Bedigian is an experienced journalist and contributor to various automotive trade publications. He is a dynamic writer, editor and communications specialist with expertise in the areas of journalism, promotional copy, PR, research and social networking.